How do you stop the flood of unnecessary baby gifts?

Vintage baby toys (Julia Wright, Flickr)

We’re expecting our first baby this summer, and the gifts are just starting to roll in. They’re so sweet, and we really appreciate the thought that went into each and every one of them. At the same time, the minimalist in me does not want to have much more than the essentials.

We set up a registry and carefully selected only the things we think we really need. When people send other gifts, it’s because they’ve put thought into what we or the baby might love, and I appreciate this thought so incredibly much. But these extra gifts take extra space and can feel unnecessary. In the worst case scenario, they can even begin to feel like a burden.

(I should pause here to clarify that I’m talking mostly about toys and clothes, and not about handmade quilts or other such irreplaceable gifts that we’ll adore and treasure.)

What are expecting parents to do? Here are the options I’ve considered:

Keep the gifts

And be thankful for such nice people in our lives. Store them away somewhere or find a way to use them.

Return the gifts and use the money for other baby gear we really need

And still be thankful for the nice people in our lives. My worry is that if these friends or family ever come over they might notice that we don’t have their gift anywhere in sight. Often they’ve put a lot of thought into a gift, and I’d feel bad rejecting such a gift. Do you worry about this? Or is it not such a big deal since baby gear changes as the kids grow older?

Tell friends and family in advance that we’d prefer registry or cash gifts

We could cite the small size of our apartment as the reason behind this request, but this one still feels a little bit uncomfortable to me, like we’re assuming that they will want to get us a gift in the first place.

Fill the registry with more essentials, including things for older ages

This option is based on the assumption that if the registry has enough options — price points and types of gifts — that people will have a better chance of finding a gift there that they are happy to give, and feel less compelled to add other extra gifts. My concern here is that we won’t get the registry items that we really need for an infant if people buy more of the gifts intended for an older age.


I think I’m leaning toward the first or second option, depending on the gift and the likelihood that we would use it.

The most heartwarming thing I’ve observed about parents is that they share and pass along things they don’t need or use anymore. This virtuous cycle means there is another option.

We could try trading some extras for things that we do need.

It would even better if our extras were exactly what other parents were looking for. It could be a win-win for everyone involved.

Parents, I’d love to hear how you keep all these toys and extras at bay. Non-parents, I’d love to hear what route you would recommend. And all gift-givers, which option would you prefer that your recipients take if your gift wasn’t something they really needed?

(Photo credit: Julia Wright, Flickr)

Our babymoon

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My husband and I recently went on a babymoon of sorts. One of my best friends was getting married in Boulder, and neither of us had ever been and were eager to check it out. We knew I would be about 7 months pregnant, so the timing was perfect to turn the trip into a babymoon. We decided to stay for a full week.

The wedding took up most of our first weekend. It was a beautiful outdoor ceremony with a open-air pavilion reception. Rainy weather caused a little stress early on but ultimately didn’t keep anyone from having a great time.

image1It was so wonderful to catch up with my two best friends from growing up. (Hi, bump!)

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We spent the next couple of rainy days exploring Boulder, walking around Pearl Street and checking out Chautauqua Park. If we ever go back, and it’s not raining all.the.time, I would love to explore the trails around Chautauqua Park some more. It was just at the base of the Flatirons, and absolutely stunning.

The bride is a big outdoors enthusiast (who isn’t in Boulder?) and recommended a hike in Rocky Mountain National park, just about an hour outside of Boulder. So, a couple of days after the wedding, my husband and I made the trip, only to find more rain and clouds blocking all of the mountain peaks.

The biggest bummer was that the trail we wanted to hike was covered in packed snow. It was slick, and since a fall would be particularly bad right now for me, we opted to skip it for an easy stroll around a lake at a lower elevation. I was pretty disappointed. The one highlight was getting to see these guys:

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I texted her about having to pass on the hike, and she immediately offered us a couple of pairs of snowshoes. The crampon grips on the bottom would be perfect for getting a good foothold. We checked the weather for the next day, and it looked like there was a storm-free window until 2pm. Things were looking up!

We packed up the next day and headed back to the mountains. When we arrived, we were immediately so glad we’d come again. We were greeted with views like this, which had been hidden behind low clouds the day before.

image5We headed back to our trail and scrambled up that mountain to try to see all three glacial lakes that we’d set out to see before the storms came in, having heard the last lake was the most beautiful.

The second lake was not too shabby ūüôā

image8But the third — Emerald Lake — was truly breathtaking.

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It was completely covered in snow and nestled into a bowl. Everything was extremely quiet, peaceful, and beautiful. We stayed for about five minutes before deciding we needed to get back quickly to beat the storms.

We stopped outside of the park to get Nepalese food. It was my first time trying it, and it was pretty amazing.

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We also stopped by the famous Stanley Hotel, which inspired Stephen King to make The Shining. Creepy even now, don’t you think?

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It continued to rain for the rest of our trip, but we did some fun activities indoors. We took a tour of the Celestial Seasonings factory, and we visited a couple of breweries, including Avery and Wild Woods. I only got to try a few sips, but my husband really liked what he tried at both, and we’d definitely recommend them.image3

It was a wonderful trip. I’ve thought for a while now that Boulder could be a great place to live, and the trip made me feel even more interested in that possibility. I love the outdoorsy vibe, the gorgeous scenery, and the cost of living (on that front, practically anything is appealing compared to San Francisco!).

Did you take a babymoon? If so, where did you go, and would you recommend it? 

Have you been to Boulder? What other sights do you recommend seeing? 

Minimalism, baby

I’ve been wanting to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for some time now. The author¬†argues that¬†we should be asking ourselves a very specific¬†question as we consider what items we should keep in our home:

Does it spark joy?

I have to admit — in our tiny apartment, so many¬†things do not spark joy for me. I have work to do. A lot of work! But let’s start with something manageable, yes? As we are preparing to welcome our first baby into this crazy world, I find myself contending with all the stuff.

There seem to be two camps — the “newborns don’t need much more than a place to sleep, some diapers, and a few changes of clothes”, and what I’ll call the Baby Industrial Complex. The latter¬†tries to lure you into buying all the stuff with horror stories of babes calmed only by this special product (costing just one arm and one leg,¬†and taking up a sizable fraction¬†of the nursery floor space). I think the truth is somewhere in between. Newborns do actually need some stuff.

It’s in my nature to minimize what we get. I don’t want all the stuff. And yet… our list is growing and looking more like what I once thought to be so ridiculous. Watching it grow¬†makes me decidedly unhappy. I find myself considering¬†things that I don’t want, simply because others insist so strongly that they are life savers:

  • A mechanical swing (“It was the only thing that calmed our crying baby.”)
  • A stroller frame, or wheels for your car seat (“Taking the baby out of the car seat and into a carrier is sure to wake him up.”)
  • A breastfeeding pillow (“The baby will latch and feed better, and your nipples won’t be so sore.”)
  • Sophie la Giraffe (“Babies adore¬†Sophie.”)
  • A video monitor (“You will have so much more peace of mind being able to see in the crib without walking in and risking waking the baby.”)
  • An activity gym (“Bright colors and different textures are¬†important for developmental growth.”)
  • A baby towel (“Babies can get cold very easily, and the hood helps them stay warm.”)
  • A diaper bag (“They’re designed to easily organize baby’s necessities like diapers, wipes, changing pads — and who wants to be digging around with one hand trying to find something when baby needs you?”)
  • A pack-n-play (“You will need this¬†when you go to Grandma’s house.”)
  • A stroller (“You could use a carrier, but your back might ache on longer walks, and¬†your baby might not like being in a carrier.”)

Sure, we could do without all of these things, and I yearn to simplify, but is this the right time? Or is this the time to make things as easy as possible on ourselves, given how many challenges already await us in the coming months?

What do you think — should we get all the stuff? Even if it does not spark joy? How do you handle this balancing act? Happiness via minimalism, or happiness via convenience?